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This is a collection of memoirs written by Kingston herself without the mentioning of her own name. The narrator talks about how she grew up in a foreign land, which is the United States. The narrator is basically Chinese, and foreign people are generally termed as ghosts in Chinese language. We also see literal ghosts in a couple of sections, but generally ghosts mean non-Chinese people. The narrator keeps on bringing on the memories and cultural norms of China, while living in the United States, which shows that she has never let go of her mother culture.
In this story, the narrator talks about the influence of mother tongue on the chances and opportunities that come in the way of the person, especially if he speaks limited or broken English. She talks how her mother had adopted different kinds of Englishes just for the sake of survival in the non-native country. The narrator tells about her struggles, how she changed her major from pre-med to English, and became a freelance writer. The theme behind is that the language spoken in a family has great influence upon the personality and destiny of a person.
We can compare the three stories in a sense that all talk about the importance of mother language and cultural identity. These two things remain a part and parcel of one’s life even when one goes abroad and settles down in another culture with foreign people. Private language and mother tongue should not be given up, because these have a great impact upon our personalities and the way we cope with our everyday lives.
“When I went to kindergarten and had to speak English for the first time, I became silent. A dumbness – a shame – still cracks my voice in two, even when I want to say "hello" casually, or ask an easy question in front of the check-out counter, or ask directions of a bus driver.” (Kingston 5.30)
This quote shows the embarrassment when she had not learnt the foreign language. This brings up the importance of learning the second
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